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StageFright

Posted by Josh Samford On October - 11 - 2010



REVIEW SUBMITTED BY PROF. AGLAOPHOTIS


The Plot: On an American stage, a surrealist play called The Night Owl is rehearsed by Peter Colins, a pretentious and conceited but artistically talented director. When one of the actresses, Alicia Alvarez, sprains her ankle on stage, she’s taken to a hospital for some quick treatment against Peter’s knowledge on the grounds that Peter would not let her go anyways. Once there though, Alicia and her friend Betty discover that a famous serial killer ex-actor, Irving Wallace, is being treated there. Upon seeing Alicia, Irving devises a way to escape from the hospital undetected and follow the two back to the play house. After murdering Betty, Irving disappears and the cast retreats back to their homes after the tragedy. However, Peter and his accountant Jack Ferrari devise a way to keep the rehearsal going. Desperate to make his play a hit, Peter locks a select group of his performers in the play house in order to practice a new, revised script based on the recent murder just outside the building. However, as the crew get into their new roles, Irving reveals to have holed himself up in the theater and intends to bathe the stage in the blood of the actors.




The Review
I really have to say, this is probably one of the most original Slasher movies I’ve seen in a long time. No, check that, it’s one of the most original Slashers out there! Not only in setting, but in presentation, build-up and atmosphere. I’m honestly amazed how it’s pulled off too, because Stage Fright has its immediate share of Horror movie clichés from beginning to end. It has an Escaped Mental Patient, a Final Girl (who just happens to wear all white), one Spring-Loaded Cat, two bumbling cops although they don’t really bumble, they’re just subtle comic relief, a homosexual character (who I’m pretty sure you know whether they’ll make it out or not), a main victim character you’re supposed to hate and an omnipotent killer. With all of this, you’d think this would be a run-of-the-mill Slasher movie, but there’s enough in the background, enough craft behind the cinematography, enough uniqueness in the score that makes this a unique Slasher as a whole. In fact, I think the only things this movie lacks in order to be a totally unoriginal Slasher would be actual teenage/young adult characters, T&A and the woods.

The movie has quite some build-up, though. It opens up with the play in progress and I really wish someone would adapt it to the stage because it looks 100% hilarious. What’s even funnier is how the crew to the play was probably the crew to the actual movie. The setting of a playhouse to a weirdly exploitive play all ready offers a lot of visual variety and color to the screen, but none of it would have come out that way if it wasn’t for excellent cinematography… which the movie has plenty of. The movie is chock-full of nice shots from long, dimly-lit hallways to quiet stage backdrops. There are some brilliant close-ups and angles, too, mostly of glancing eyes and parting lips. The lighting is just right: no scene is too dark and everything is lit enough so that everything is visible. I wouldn’t say the brightness detracts from the atmosphere though, because there are quite a lot of creepy and intense scenes that were very well lit. Right off the bat, I have to say that the costumes in this are very well done. The things the characters wear bring them to life and are just average enough to be believable. I totally love the killer owl costume, too, that’s a work of genius right there.

The entire setting of the movie is brought to life by a rockin’ ‘80’s soundtrack that carries touch of Demons, John Carpenter and just a hint of Labyrinth in there at times. Composed by Simon Boswell, who also composed the soundtrack to the killer Argento flick Phenomena, the soundtrack brings the movie’s feelings to life from the crazy and sleazy style of Peter’s play, the intensity of chasing after or being chased by the killer to the moment where a character follows a trail of blood to one of the survivors. The score does tend to sound a little fantastic at times like whenever there’s a pursuit in the movie the score gets so intense I found myself bobbing my head to the beats.

The performances in the movie aren’t too bad, though most of them don’t really stand out. If anything, everyone does a great job in making the characters seem realistic enough, each of them being pretty likable or detestable in their own special way. David Brandon is pretty good as a sleazy, but desperate director trying to make it as a pretentious play writer. If anything, the only part of the character I hated was his wardrobe… ech. I particularly like the Nose-Candy aspect to him, that was a nice touch. Giovanni Radice is awesome in this movie as he is in practically every movie I’ve seen him in. Here he plays the character Brett, a flamboyantly gay dancer who sort of reminds me of gay co-workers in previous jobs; as stereotypical as the character seemed, he came across pretty convincing according to my personal experiences and further more Brett was really funny (“Don’t rush me, Gloria!”).

Ever since I saw her in The Church (another Michele Soavi movie), I practically fell in love with Barbara Cupisti because she’s got a certain atmosphere to her in all of her performances. She comes across as the perfect ‘Everyday Woman Trapped in a Horrific Situation’ in the movies I’ve seen her in and Stage Fright is no exception; if I were developing a Survival Horror game and had to make a heroine for it, I’d model that heroine off of Barbara Cupisti. She sort of comes across as the typical Final Girl (and really, that’s all her role comes down to), but she’s stuck between being Virginal and Full of Attitude, tuned to make her character average enough to be relatable. When she has to struggle, she struggles with all her might, and when she’s scared, she’ll scream, but she won’t scream her head off.

I mentioned that the movie is creepy and has an atmosphere to it, but what it comes down to are the grisly death scenes. Most of the death scenes are rather brief, but appropriately gory and there is some consistency to the deaths. It does start out on a shocker when Betty gets murdered and everyone else after her just get stabbed, but the goriness picks up after the second stabbing. Plus, the first time someone is stabbed is really effective because it happens during rehearsal in front of everyone. I swear this killer knows the studio like the palm of his hand though because he knows exactly where all of the most dangerous power tools are and the perfectly places to ambush the actors.

Which is kind of what gets to me about the movie: there doesn’t seem to be much back story to everything which would easily explain some confusing aspects about the movie. Yes, Irving Wallace used to be an actor and I can buy his rather clever tactics of distraction, but how would that amount to him knowing just where to hide in the studio? You couldn’t just say he used to work there in his youth or maybe he found a floor plan in the office? As much as I loved the attic death scene, it seemed the least consistent because one minute we’re in an attic, but then a character drops down into a dark hole in the floor and it’s practically a sewer. Also, when the killer murders someone in the attic the murder weapon he uses doesn’t make a sound until we later see what he used… and it would have been noisy. There are some flops in the movie like how the stunt that injures Alicia in the beginning is clearly a dummy thrown into the air, how whenever a power tool is being used the sound is always delayed until its killing someone on-screen or how the gun near the end suddenly switches from being a 9mm to a .38! Did they use the same gun from Cthulhu Mansion all of a sudden?

What’s interesting about this movie is that the main characters and the actors playing them originally appeared a year ago in a Joe D’Amato sex film called 11 Days, 11 Nights. This included characters such as Alicia, Peter, Danny, Irving and even the hospital nurse, all played by the same actors and this movie was written by George Eastman, an actor who frequently worked with Joe D’Amato as well as Michele Soavi who appeared in some of D’Amato’s movies. What connection that movie has with this one is beyond me seeing how I have yet to obtain a copy of 11 Days; considering the back-story behind some Joe D’Amato related movies, I’m guessing this is a pseudo sequel or retelling of the original story where instead of everyone screwing around, the characters are getting killed. This method sort of reminds me of the Kenji Eno fashion of game development where he’d make a new game with a vastly different story and setting, but similar characters from the previous game.


The Conclusion
This movie ought to be a real good treat for horror fans out there. Stage Fright is a creepy little Italian Slasher with enough style and effectiveness to be a great Horror title, yet enough style and camp to be a great Halloween Party movie. As a side note, I’ll be taking a cue from this movie on cat-naming for when I get another cat… because naming a cat Lucifer is probably the best name you can come up with. That or Gustave.



Cannibal Ferox

Posted by Josh Samford On October - 8 - 2010


The Plot: Our film begins with a young junkie getting out of the hospital looking for some “horse” and he heads right back to his main supplier: Mike Logan (John Morghen). Unfortunately Mike has taken off with 100k of the mafia’s money and this leads to the poor man’s death. This death ultimately leads to a police investigation at home in New York while Mike is on his way through South America trying to gather cocaine and jewels. Mike’s big plans go south however when he and his crew are jumped by a cannibal tribe. At the time that this is happening we are introduced to Gloria, who has lead her two friends down into the amazon in order to complete her anthropology thesis. It is her belief that cannibal tribes are nothing more than a myth perpetuated by white colonialists looking to scare away the populace. So she and her friends have discovered a small village that is rumored to be part of a cannibal tribe and they plan to investigate and prove these allegations false. Once they are in the amazon and meet up with Mike and Joe they discover that not only is cannibalism real but one of the tribes is now on the hunt for them thanks to something that the insane Mike Logan helped instigate.




The Review
I have been writing about cannibal movies here on Varied Celluloid since the inception of this website. In fact, when I first decided I wanted to go ahead and create the site one of my first reviews written was for the film I’m talking about today: Cannibal Ferox. I also did a write up for Cannibal Holocaust at the time, this was circa 2001-2002, and believe me neither review was very elegant. The Cannibal Ferox review was scrapped before the website actually went live and Cannibal Holocaust has since been re-written once or twice. As demonstrated by my reviews for Deep Red and Demons, first viewings can be rather tricky. Sometimes it takes distance for a movie to really settle in. Sometimes it takes gained knowledge to actually put a movie together in comparison to what else was going on at the time politically, sociologically and cinematically. Some movies may at times seem ‘bad’ in the eye of your memory, but when you go back and revisit them you discover areas that actually make the movie a new experience. When going back to Cannibal Ferox, which I must confess I hated upon first viewing, I didn’t find a truly fantastic piece of cinema that I had abandoned but I did find a movie that was not nearly as bad as I had hyped up in mind.

There were a number of issues going into Cannibal Ferox that ultimately left me feeling rather cold on the film itself. For one, I was still relatively green in my explorations of Italian cult cinema so I didn’t quite know just how bad these pictures can be in the hands of an untrusted director. There was also the fact that I had seen Cannibal Holocaust beforehand so my expectations for quality cinema may have also tainted my expectations to a degree. Thirdly, I suppose the hype didn’t help things. The movie itself actually starts off by hyping up its own violence with the warning:

”The following feature is one of the most violent films ever made. There are at least two dozen scenes of barbaric torture and sadistic cruelty graphically shown. If the presentation of disgusting and repulsive subject matter upsets you, please do not view this film.”

Hype is always best served by those who aren’t directly linked to a project and while I understand marketing campaigns used to focus entirely on self-appropriated hype back in the Grindhouse days, that introduction is a bit much by anyone’s standards! Going into the movie, listening to its proponents (some of who still swear its the most violent film ever made) and looking at that Banned in 31 Countries blurb on the poster… I can understand hype being a factor. I am not saying that Cannibal Ferox is a walk in the park mind you, not by anyone’s standards. There are a few very gory moments as well as some brutal stock footage of animals slaughtering one another as well as fresh footage of animals being slaughtered by natives. Lenzi did his best to try and one-up Rugero Deodato in terms of graphic content when it comes to animal butchery, but unfortunate for him his violence just doesn’t have the impact. The use of stock footage does keep you guessing during the course of the movie, as you wonder which of these moments did Lenzi shoot himself and which were simply picked out of a vault. Yet, stock footage always takes me out of a movie like this. It reveals the movie magic and dulls the impact of the “fake violence” all the more.

While I still consider Cannibal Ferox to be the corny little brother of Cannibal Holocaust, I do have a much more favorable opinion of it these days. Everything that happens during the jungle segments of this movie is actually quite strong, in my opinion. The drama that is built, the performances and of course the exploitation elements. When the movie makes the jump to New York, things aren’t quite as favorable. Rather than the “Dr. Monroe” situation in New York that we found in Cannibal Holocaust, Lenzi instead focuses on the drug dealing past of Mike and the police investigation (lead by Robert Kerman) around the death of a junkie that Mike used to sell to. This entire sequence could have been scrapped and nothing would have been missed. However we are forced to contend with these strange jumps in quality and tone as we move from the Amazon, with its grueling and bleak world of chaos, to the disco soundtrack world of New York’s criminal underworld. The two soundtracks used for each locale couldn’t be more drastically different and while I understand that Lenzi may have wanted to show how different these worlds were, the music lacks any kind of subtle quality and instead it feels like you are being pelted over the head with a brick.

The theme music in the jungle may lack any kind of subtlety, but it works. It is all doom and gloom, but that is precisely what the movie calls for and it was definitely a great call to use it. The best way to describe it is intense, because the music takes over everything whenever that main theme is played. The cast are actually pretty decent as well. John Morghen as Mike is over the top, but is pitch perfect for what his role called for. Morghen is best known for some his more weaselly roles, but this time out he takes on the authoritative and violent Mike and is very believable. He plays the role in much the same way as a David Hess might and thoroughly commits to being the brutal oaf that we expect from the villain. Lorraine De Salle puts in a good performance as well, although at times she does appear rather lost. I only say this because I have seen her put in much better performances but here she never really gets to shine. In fact, her beauty even seems to be toned down as her appearance is never what I would consider to be attractive. Generally the movie is technically well made as a whole. It looks good, there are some well thought out shots, the gore FX are really great and the acting (outside of the New York sequences, which feature some very dodgy acting by way of the Mafia goon-characters) is pretty strong. What few issues I have with the movie are now relegated to structure and poor choices on behalf of the director.

The Conclusion
The animal violence is going to affect different people in different ways. It is the most offensive thing about these movies after all. If you have a problem with seeing this sort of stuff, then this might not be for you. A pig is stabbed on screen, a large iguana is disemboweled and another large turtle (such as in Cannibal Holocaust) is hacked to bits specifically for this movie. There is also a good deal of stock footage showing snakes, monkeys and a rodent creature being killed by other various animals (as our actors stand on obviously fake “sets” and pretend to watch on… likely tacked on after principal shooting). This sort of stuff can be hard for some people to stand, however I contend that if you have ever seen a deer cleaned or if you’ve ever seen the inner working of a slaughter house then you can handle this. Overall, my feelings haven’t changed in a tremendous way when it comes to Cannibal Ferox. I still think its a weak movie, I still think there are better films out there and I do think Lenzi has done better inside of the genre himself. However, it is a pretty well made movie and far better than my first impressions of it were. I give it a three out of five. It is above average and should probably be seen by anyone with an interest in Italian cult cinema!



Halloween Horrors #02: Demons

Posted by Josh Samford On October - 6 - 2010



Hey everyone! Although I would love to get a review up for every day of the month, that probably won’t happen due to real life getting in my way. Still, this month will be full of reviews and postings! That is for sure! The second installment of our Halloween Horrors is a review for Lamberto Bava’s Demons! A ridiculous piece of Italian horror that I have some negative history with but have discovered a rather entertaining little film inside! Check out the review now!


The Plot: In West Berlin a man wearing a metallic half-mask approaches random strangers on the streets and in the subway. He is handing out tickets to a special screening of an unknown film at the Metropol theater. Many ultimately show up and this theater seems more than a little bizarre. It is highly decorative and there is even a motorbike in the center lobby holding a mannequin who wears a chrome mask. This mask eventually shows up in the movie that is being premiered. The film in question turns out to be a horror title and takes place around a group of teenagers who find said mask. One of the teens is given a small scratch upon wearing the mask and is transformed into a demonic zombie-like creature. As it turns out, one of the movie-goers in the audience actually tried on the mask while in the lobby and now they are facing the same circumstance as they too were scratched and are slowly turning into one of these creatures of the night. With the doors all mysteriously locked up and with the demonic infection being passed from one person to the next, who will survive this night?



CONTINUE READING THE REVIEW HERE

Demons

Posted by Josh Samford On October - 6 - 2010


The Plot: In West Berlin a man wearing a metallic half-mask approaches random strangers on the streets and in the subway. He is handing out tickets to a special screening of an unknown film at the Metropol theater. Many ultimately show up and this theater seems more than a little bizarre. It is highly decorative and there is even a motorbike in the center lobby holding a mannequin who wears a chrome mask. This mask eventually shows up in the movie that is being premiered. The film in question turns out to be a horror title and takes place around a group of teenagers who find said mask. One of the teens is given a small scratch upon wearing the mask and is transformed into a demonic zombie-like creature. As it turns out, one of the movie-goers in the audience actually tried on the mask while in the lobby and now they are facing the same circumstance as they too were scratched and are slowly turning into one of these creatures of the night. With the doors all mysteriously locked up and with the demonic infection being passed from one person to the next, who will survive this night?





The Review
You know, I have continually expressed my love for Lamberto Bava’s work on this website time and again but Demons is just one movie that I never really “got”. This is strange since so many people I know and trust are legitimate diehards when it comes to this movie. I was introduced to the film extremely early on in my genre film explorations however and ultimately it remained one of those movies that I felt sort of left in the dark on. So, with Halloween Horrors I decided to once again tackle a slightly more mainstream film than I normally would on Varied Celluloid and delve into a classic of the horror genre. Demons certainly has its detractors who stand firmly in line with a great deal of my initial reactions to the movie. I’ll put it boldly: this movie makes no sense. Logic is thrown completely out the window with Demons, in only that way that the Italians could do. Lucio Fulci was often criticized for his lack of actual plot direction, but Lamberto Bava’s Demons is certainly a high contender with City of the Living Dead for the most bizarre and utterly ridiculous excuse for logical storytelling. Whether that makes this a good or bad movie will depend entirely on the viewer. With my first viewing, I have to admit I didn’t see what all the fuss was about but after years of Italian trash I have developed a high tolerance for cinematic stupidity and I’ve certainly found more enjoyment in the insanity that Demons provides.

At the time of my introduction, I didn’t really know what to expect from Italian horror cinema other than a lot of gore. Demons along with Dario Argento’s Trauma were essentially the first two films I had seen of Italian horror. When you diet strictly on slashers and general American horror, you grow to expect very conventional plot devices and most of all you expect a very logical plot that only deviates from reality in the stupid decisions that the teenagers tend to make. With Demons you get those things but you also get this feeling that no one actually proofread this script! There is a very infamous moment towards the end of the movie that involves a helicopter and shows the clearest and most obvious example of Deus ex Machina as I have ever seen. So much of the idiocy that I lambast the film for comes specifically from what happens during this sequence and the following moments. Everything we have learned throughout the course of the movie is ultimately abandoned as Bava seems to turn his project from a haunted theater story into a post apocalyptic zombie story. During my first viewing I felt angered and betrayed at this sudden switch in logic. What made the filmmakers think that this was a feasible option? You need to establish plot twists! You can’t simply throw curveballs without actually establishing the rules of the game first. Lacking any experience with this, it really put me off from the movie.

During my re-visit, knowing what to expect, I was able to put aside all of the logistic errors and simply enjoy the movie for its ridiculousness in a way that I had never thought I would. I can not say that Demons is a good film by conventional standards and I won’t even consider it Lamberto Bava’s best work. However, it is so entertaining in a mindless sort of way that you can’t help but feel some affection for it. It’s like that mentally slow kid who runs around the neighborhood shooting his neighbors with a stick. Sure, he’s not the brightest lightbulb in the house but he is earnest in his playtime fun and you just can’t help but root for the guy! Demons like watching a glam metal eighties music video only injected with horse steroids! The story establishes just enough for us to get inside of this theater setting and then the drugs, gore and insanity ensues! Many ridiculous characters are introduced and the violence is simply on another level. There’s some tremendous gore throughout that puts this movie on level with some of Lucio Fulci’s best work, which is pretty high honors and is something I find of interest due to Lamberto Bava’s statements in interviews generally disapproving of onscreen violence. The violence is gratuitous, but this is a movie that defies all acts of subtle nuance. Every character is broadly drawn, the heavy metal soundtrack is loud and stupidity is the number one creative quality that Demons delivers on – but that just makes it more fun!

Although it is a bad film in terms of plot development, continuity and general storytelling skills – Demons is certainly a technically beautiful looking achievement. The awesome theater design is actually pretty amazing. There are the marble floors, the red carpets and the strange neon lighting that bathes everything, these are great touches that help give the movie its own personality. Even though it is braindead in many ways, perhaps that simply speaks towards the time and this particular demographic that the film was ultimately trying to speak to? There are other little things that I love about Demons. The movie posters in the theater were a nice touch, I even spotted one for Dario Argento’s Four Flies on Grey Velvet! The costumes are so overtly eighties and I loved how broadly the caricatures were drawn simply based upon their clothes. You’ve got a sweater tied around the neck of our jock character, pearl earrings and conservative clothing on the leading lady, you’ve got your general slut characters, the pimp wearing a white suit and his hookers who look like backup dancers from a Paula Abdul video… How can you not have fun with this one?

The Conclusion
It has taken well over a decade for Demons to really grow on me as a viewer. These days I don’t like it for the reasons that I love something like Phantasm, The Evil Dead or Halloween but the ridiculousness of the movie has really made me a fan. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, it is clunky and over the top but for every one of these points there are two or three scenes that are either uninentionally funny or legitimately entertaining. I give the film a four out of five stars now. There are others out there who would give it a five star rating, but I think those are people who genuinely love the movie for being “good”. If you haven’t seen the movie, definitely search it out but I would recommend getting a few pieces of Italian trash under your belt first in order to fully appreciate this Italian silliness.



Phantasm

Posted by Josh Samford On October - 4 - 2010


The Plot: Mike is a 13 year old boy having to deal with the death of his parents. Jody, his twenty-something brother has been thrown into the uncomfortable position of having to raise the boy. Mike fears that Jody will flee from his responsibility and leave him to fend for himself and although Jody has dealt with certain fears of responsibility, he loves his little brother and will look after him. Jody spends the majority of his days hanging out with his good friend Reggie, the local ice cream man who plays music with Jody. These three good friends are about to embark upon a horrifying journey that they never could have imagined! After Mike witnesses the local mortician, referred to only as “The Tall man”, picking up a fully loaded coffin by himself and throwing it in the back of his hearse he becomes suspicious about all of the missing persons cases that have been popping up. Mike sets out to find just how this “Tall Man” is linked to the missing locals and where he comes from. Along the way he convinces Reggie and Jody to come along for the ride and thus the final confrontation is set in stone as this group of average Joe’s look to take on the forces of evil!



The Review
With The Phantasm series it is difficult to really start up any conversation on the films because no matter what you’re probably going to end up covering the same issues everyone else already has. That’s the trouble when writing on any popular piece of cinema unfortunately, but sometimes you just have to throw your hat in the ring and seeing as it is time for Halloween Horrors here at Varied Celluloid, there is no time like the present to fully cover one of genre cinema’s most beloved films! In my teenage years, I figured I had seen the majority of American horror classics. Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween… heck, even the Leprechaun, Critters and Ghoulies movies! With The Phantasm series… as a kid things kind of blend together and after having sat and watched all four entries in the series some time last year the best explanation as to why I was never a devout or hardcore fan of the series is that excluding the third film, I had probably only seen snippets of any single one of the films. This came as a shock to even me, but as a kid you tend to forget the little things and I had always looked past these movies due to a rather cold opinion of them based upon misinformation. So, when I finally sat down to enjoy the entire series as a sort of refresher course – it turned ou that I was discovering a whole group of films I feel guilty for not truly discovering earlier on in my cinematic experience. As it turns out, the only entry in the series that I had seen the whole way through was this very first films. Although it may be the best of the bunch, they are all pretty great in their own way.

Now, the Phantasm series as a whole gets some very different observations depending on who you talk to. Fans of the series will talk about the great dream logic that translates from each movie to the next. They’ll talk about the excellent genre moments such as the introduction of the quad-barreled shotgun and all of the rather silly and fun moments that have defined Don Coscarelli’s intricate series. Then there are the detractors who will earnestly point out that for every one question that is answered in one of the sequels, there are thirty NEW and impossible to answer questions tacked onto things. Even though I think that both sides are right in different ways, the overall tone of fun is what makes the Phantasm movies a roaring success. Only in a series like this could you get away with getting little people to play zombies resurrected from beyond the grave at one-fourth their original size – and somehow do it in a manner that comes off as creepy and not just ridiculous. Go figure.

It seems that now since his great success with Bubba Ho-Tep, Don Coscarelli is finally getting some of the credit he truly deserves. He contributed what was considered to be the best entry into Showtime’s Masters of Horror series which was called Incident On and Off a Mountain Road and helped finally throw Bruce Campbell into a really great role without Sam Raimi. Although he has unfortunately left the Bubba Ho-Tep series, we could still be looking at a resurgence in this man’s career. However, horror fans are still waiting for him to complete his original, his baby, the Phantasm series. Until then, the best we can do is try to persuade as many people to absorb these films as we can. The first entry into the series, as is often the occasion, is the best and most remarkable to be sure. With this film we see a burgeoning Coscarelli playing with things such as genre and delving into the world of science fiction and horror with ease. The dream logic that the series has become well known for starts here, as we drift in and out of dream states and we see this horror unfold almost in a stream of consciousness. There are so many great and yet utterly bizarre moments, such as the brief glimpse we see of the Tall Man’s home planet as well as the incredibly strange ending that still confuses audiences to this day.

Although a film shot on a sometimes obvious budget, with an assortment of filmmakers probably not all that experienced (and this is the late seventies; not every Joe had the ability to practice making his own films in his backyard like nowadays) – the film still looks and holds up extraordinarily well. There are moments of obvious vision on the part of the director (that scene where the Tall Man is walking down the main street in front of Reggie and the ice cream truck is and always will be a defining moment in cinematic history) and it’s in those moments where you truly get to see how unique a film this was and still is. Where Phantasm shines most, and that is all of the films and even Coscarelli himself, is in the storytelling. Simple, effective and with as many trinkets thrown in to make it as amusing as possible. The Phantasm series on the outside looking in may seem like a really cool flick where giant balls fly around and drill into people’s heads (and that it may be as well), but what actually makes it a classic is it’s ability to do two things: tell a interesting story in an unusual way – and draw outlandish, hilarious and all around amusing three dimensional characters. With that kind of filmmaking at work, what more could you possibly need?

The Conclusion
The original Phantasm is best viewed as an experiment in horror, style and storytelling. Coscarelli showed a real knack for handling tension and suspense right here in the beginning of his career. I have seen this first film many times before, but I find myself rewatching in every Halloween. For me it is one of those films that perfectly encapsulates the FEEL of Halloween. The fun and fear that we all felt exploring the night during October is directly represented by Mike here in Phantasm and the movie just gives off that feel. I love the look and feel of Phantasm and I consider it one of the best horror films of the seventies. I give it my highest honors and hope that other film fans who have NOT experienced this movie will give it a fair break. It has issues and will thoroughly confuse you as it goes along, but have fun with it!



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Varied Celluloid is a film website intent on delivering views on movies from all genres. Started in 2003, the website has been steadfast in its goal and features a database of over 500 lengthy reviews. If you would like to contact us about writing for the website or sending screeners, please visit the about page located here.

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